NHS workers including nurses, paramedics, therapists and midwives face another year of financial hardship following the government decision to impose a one per cent pay increase, said Unison yesterday.
Unison, which represents 450,000 health workers, said that the ‘squeeze on pay coming on the back of a two-year pay freeze has left many health workers and their families struggling to make ends meet’.
The union hit out at the government for stripping up to 12 per cent off the value of NHS wages.
Unison head of health Christina McAnea added: ‘Freezing and squeezing pay is crushing morale and heaping financial misery on more than a million NHS workers.
‘At the same time, the NHS is going through a massive reorganisation and staff are dealing with job cuts, rationing and ever-increasing patient numbers.
‘Low pay is still a massive issue in the NHS, with thousands of staff being paid less than the Living Wage of £7.45 per hour.’
The union has reported more health workers, including nurses, turning to its welfare fund for help with rising fuel bills, debt advice and emergency loans.
Unison’s evidence to the Pay Review Body (PRB) built up a picture of the pressures facing staff, including tiered pension contribution increases that are likely to lead to a further reduction in take home pay of up to six per cent by 2015.
It noted that the NHS non-medical workforce shrank by 2.1 per cent over 2010/11. Thousands have suffered redundancy and estimates put expected job losses around the 50,000 mark.
While staffing has been contracting, demand for services is on the rise across most of the NHS.
It is anticipated that NHS finances will be under acute pressure from the government’s reduction in the NHS financial settlement.
Nonetheless, the NHS in England recorded a surplus of £1.6bn for the 2011/12 financial year, and foundation trusts are predicting a further surplus of £326m. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also shown surpluses in their most recent accounts.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said angrily: ‘This is the third year that the government has constrained the PRB and told them the award they can offer, without any evidence.’
Jon Skewes, RCM Director for Policy, Employment Relations and Communications, said: ‘The UK is enduring the biggest squeeze on living standards in modern times and with economic growth flat-lining we need wages-led growth to recover.’
Doctors’ leaders also condemned the pay freeze.
Dr Mark Porter, Chair of BMA Council, said: ‘The net increase of one per cent, which is below inflation, will be very disappointing to doctors – especially after real-terms pay cuts for many years – and will do little to improve morale.’
Dr Laurence Buckman, Chair of the BMA’s GPs Committee, said: ‘GPs will be fed up that they are again being treated unfairly, particularly when they are also facing the imposition of unwelcome contract changes and having to deal with the consequences of the Health and Social Care Act in England.’